My girlfriend, Kim, and I did another marathon last week. Her writeup was funny, so I’m sharing it here instead of writing my own. Lazy, yeah…

Anyway, this was my first road marathon, I’ve done a bunch others, all on trails. I discovered that although LA was unique and fun, but I think I prefer trails still. 23,000 people running is hard to wrap your brain around untill you’ve discovered it. Also, I discovered that although I’ve done mostly really tough trail runs, those big hills have a natural moderating effect on my pace. I got caught up in the excitement, and went out way too fast. I ran the first half on pace for a quick finish, but crashed hard around mile 17-18. Harder than I’ve ever crashed. At mile 21 I’d completely hit the wall, I even considered waiting for Kim. I didn’t, but I considered it… So I finished in 5:20, way slower than I’d hoped, although it still allowed me to finish in 9,117th place. (out of 23,000) Anyway, Kim’s story follows…

By Kim Luu:

Let’s preface this whole marathon silliness by saying that about 2 years ago, no make that 3 (since I’ve stopped using summers to mark time and my age, I’ve started losing track of both), I casually remarked to a friend that my goals in life were to 1) wear a bikini (in public) and 2) run a marathon. Goal number 1 takes a lot of guts and no small amount of sunblock. Goal Number 2 takes about 60 bucks plus 7 bucks for parking, just about as much guts, much less sunblock, about an ounce of foolishness, a dash of pain tolerance, and a helpful heaping of training punctuated by a 4-6 hour period in which you have no other desire than to run aimlessly in a loop of other herded marathoners. And at the finish line, you get a medal and a bagel.

Why do some people do it? Because you are young and you want to prove it. Or because you are old and you want to disprove it. Or maybe you are getting over a divorce and want a new hobby fitting of a southern California lifestyle and that new blond on your arm. Me, I’m doing it for the bagel. At any rate, you’re doing it. You’ve decided to do it, even wrote about it to Aunt Edna in the Christmas newsletter you enclosed with the picture of you and your bassett hound in front of the fireplace. And now, Aunt Edna knows and so do the ladies down at the Starbucks in Aunt Edna’s little town of Wacko Wazoo (What, you don’t think Starbucks has discovered Wacko Wazoo, yet? Guess again.) Anyways, Aunt Edna knows and so does the guy holding the nonfat mocha latte schmatte. And so does your uncle, a former champion runner of his 40 square mile country before it was taken over by the communists (weren’t they all) and the next thing you know, you’ve got Dr. Scholl shoe inserts and a dietary supplement of glucosamine with chondroitin to complement your already supplemented diet of calcium and vitamin E. And so for the four months leading up to the marathon, you drag yourself out of bed at weird hours like 6 am before work (wrinkled sheets imprinted on your right cheek and dried drool caked on your left cheek) or 7 pm after work (the circulation in your legs still cut off by your knee highs) and run in post dawn and post dusk light. You run with your boyfriend, Geoff, who has done 7 marathons (all up mountains for chrissakes) and he jogs off in front of you while you pitter putter along at a constant pace. Every five to ten minutes or so, he turns around to find and rejoin you, then running backwards (bastard), he tells you you’re doing great. And you manage to do this about once a week with an occasional 12 mile run loped in between the shorter run intervals.

And if your training runs happen to be in Newport Beach, you realize a few things. Like this town is plenty full of other maniacs who are up and running at 6:00 in the morning. ‘Get a job!’ you scream in your head. Damn day traders, you think. Until you realize that its 6 AM and these folks probably do have jobs and morning is not the best time of day for you. Then you look around the neighborhood you are running and you think ‘damn, they probably do have jobs, maybe even two judging by the houses. Howard Roark would be proud. As Geoff likes to put it, if they’ve got they’re Mercedes on the street, god knows what they’ve got in the garage. (Power tools and all the bell bottoms that wouldn’t fit in the attic, I tell him.) And on runs along the boardwalk of the beach at night, you stare out into the ocean on your left as your feet hit the pavement in even rhythm. Then you look over to the homes on your right. Beyond the low wall of patios that face the ocean and into the open windows and sliding doors, the homes are beautiful, just as you would expect. The patios are decorated with lawn furniture and the walls are low and the beach is empty. You wonder if anyone before you has been as tempted to steal ugly patio furniture. You decide pastel stripes on nylon set on plastic (even good plastic) are not worth the extra weight and continue your way down the boardwalk.

The cycle, on different boardwalks and through different neighborhoods, is repeated until March 3, 2002- the day known to most people as the third day in March- but known to us marathoners (yes, that’s me, thank you, thank you very much) as race day of the LA Marathon. In other words, it’s the day after a big pasta dinner. After finding parking and making our way through the crowds to line up by pace, we are surrounded by people. Absolutely surrounded. News helicopters and a banner advertising Wahoo’s Fish Tacos fly above us as the delicate scent of B.O. just waiting to happen wafts around us. When the gun finally sounds, we leave the starting gates as one would leave a building during a crowded fire drill. We try to get out of there but we can’t, so instead we settle for the controlled chaos of 23,000 pairs of legs shuffling through half a city block and past the bottleneck. Finally, I see asphalt instead of ankles below me. I’m FREE! I’m FREE! Don’t stop me now world, I’m on fire! Pitter putter, pitter putter. Masses of people pass me by. ‘The race went to the turtle,’ I tell myself, ‘the turtle, screw the hare.’ Pitter putter, pitter putter.

Not five minutes into the race, Geoff says he has to pee. Pee, I tell him. And before I even get those words out of my mouth, I notice packs of people peeling off from the herd from left and right, just darting off the asphalt, jumping over the sidewalk, and bolting for faces of buildings. In view of police, packs of people line up against federal buildings, commercial buildings, apartment buildings, statues, large bushes, and the occasional fat, unmoving child, to pee. Men face the wall to stand and pee (lucky) ; women face the street and use their pants or shorts in a remarkable maneuver of modest peeing. I have never seen anything like it in my life. I live in fear that I never will. Should we all be so lucky as to see it even once. God bless America, I hear Celine Dion sing in the back of my head, where if you pay $60 to run 26.2 miles, the cops will let you pee on federal buildings on race day. The race course is actually pretty interesting. We start in downtown LA, with skyscrapers looming above us, the unfinished Walt Disney Music Hall in all its shiny metal scaffolded splendor just to our left. In 26.2 miles, we run through everything from poor neighborhoods with chain link fences lining the front yards of paint chipped duplexes to rolling lawns lined with wrought iron and John Deere. Korean neighborhoods careen by us after we pass Jewish and African American areas. We run past advertisements for kim chi and kosher crackers and restaurants offering Ethiopian cuisine. Off at the sidelines, volunteers give me water at every mile, Gatorade at every other. I run by with an open hand and someone slips me a paper cup full of water from his handful of three other cups. A split second before grabbing it, I notice that the tip of his finger beyond the first joint has dipped into my water. I wonder where his fingers have been. Probably in a hundred cups before mine, I think, before downing the water. I toss the cup on the ground where it joins thousands of other flattened plastic coated paper cups, littering in front of cops. On sidewalks, strangers that I don’t know offer me oranges. Others come out from their front lawn with their hoses to cool us off. Others pass out ice. One woman holds a huge bag of pretzels that runners have already discovered and flocked to.

Twenty one miles later, I am tired. My ankles hurt, my calves hurt, my thigh hurts, my back is starting to hurt, and my pitter puttering of a jog has just transformed into a brisk walk with occasional runs. Just five more miles to go. I know I will finish but it’s all just a matter of time. At mile 25, runners dressed as Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, and Spider Man pushing a stroller passes me by. Beaten by superheroes in spandex, it could be worse. Mile 26.2 and 5 hours and 50 minutes later, I finish. (In 11,032nd place, might I add).

Don’t let the smoke and clouds fool you, marathons are all about public peeing, littering, and solicitation for food. It’s like a squatters camp made legal and documented by helicopters filming for a newscast. It’s great. And once your body recovers from the abuse, the bagels taste fantastic.

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